Friday, June 25, 2010

Gender Diversity on Boards

ACCA Pakistan Discussion Paper Gender Diversity on
Boards in Pakistan

As board gender diversity becomes a priority agenda item for
policymakers and business leaders internationally, the critical
examination of the business case for board gender diversity in
Pakistan merits consideration, states ACCA Pakistan discussion Paper
Gender Diversity on Boards in Pakistan. The discussion paper has been
conceived and commissioned by IFC.

Even though more women have entered Pakistan's paid workforce in the
last decade, from the small number of professional, qualified and
experienced women directors, it appears that there is a need for
greater understanding of the potential businesses case for gender
diversity on boards of publicly listed companies. The discussion
paper concludes that the value of mixed-group decision making for the
reputation, calculated risk-taking and possibly enhanced financial
performance of the business needs to be documented and advocated.
Business leaders who are already championing gender diversity on
boards within their organisations may be encouraged to assume an
ambassadorial role, promoting the benefits of gender diversity on
boards at public forums. The development and dissemination of the
profiles of women who have reached board level or the CEO position on
their own merit may also be useful for promoting the business case for
gender diversity on boards.

A conclusion of the discussion paper is that the largest companies of
Pakistan may take a lead by considering greater representation of
qualified, experienced and professionally competent women on boards.
This may compel other businesses (including family-owned ones) to
evaluate the benefits of having qualified and experienced women on
boards. As the discussion paper indicates a perception of a dearth of
appropriately qualified, skilled and experienced women directors; a
database of existing and prospective women directors could be
developed in Pakistan.

One of the conclusions of the discussion paper is that women's ascent
to board positions may be facilitated by organisational support and an
environment conducive to career progression. Organisations may like to
build support programmes and provide access to role models (men and
women), networks and mentors (men and women) to help women middle and
senior-level managers to overcome perceived obstacles and to succeed
in reaching board positions.

Women may consider joining professional networks and associations as
well as creating formal and informal networks that include men and
women. Board committees may also play a role in promoting gender
diversity on boards. For example, a nomination committee could
improve factoring-in of such diversity criteria to their selection and
nomination processes. Women are a largely untapped source of talent
for boards as non-executive and independent directors. In an
environment with a shortage of independent non-executive directors
with appropriate skills, the business need for tapping this source may
be explored.

'As policy makers and business leaders are internationally considering
a trend for more board diversity (including gender diversity), the
examination of the business case for board gender diversity in the
context of Pakistan merits consideration. The discussion paper by
presenting an overview of the current state of gender diversity on
boards in Pakistan aims to initiate a discussion on the future of
gender diversity on boards in Pakistan,' explained Dr Afra Sajjad,
Head of Education and Policy Development of ACCA Pakistan.

'ACCA was the first accountancy body to admit women to its membership,
in 1909. In terms of the demographic of ACCA women constitute 43% of
ACCA global membership with women accounting for 49 % of those taking
the most recent ACCA exams. The discussion paper by presenting a
business case for gender diversity based on the premises of fair
access and routes to progression endorses ACCA's core values of
opportunity, innovation, integrity and diversity', commented Arif
Masud Mirza, Head of ACCA Pakistan.

About ACCA Pakistan

ACCA Pakistan, a not-for-profit organisation incorporated under
Section 42 of the Companies Ordinance 1984, is part of ACCA (the
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), the largest and
fastest-growing global professional accountancy body, with more than
404,000 students and 140,000 members in 170 countries, whom ACCA
supports through a network of 83 staffed offices and centres around
the world.

Throughout its 106-year history, ACCA has provided opportunity to
people of talent and application, regardless of background, and has
succeeded in making the accountancy
profession accessible to those normally denied further or professional
education. ACCA supports any initiatives that contribute to equal
opportunity for all and that remove unnecessary barriers to those
seeking qualification as professional accountants.

In Pakistan, ACCA has provided opportunities for a large number of
young women to pursue a world-class career in accounting, finance,
business and management. It has worked with the Women's Chambers of
Commerce and the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority
(SMEDA) to facilitate access to finance for women entrepreneurs. The
ACCA Pakistan discussion paper Access to Finance for Female
Entrepreneurs advocates creation of an enabling environment for
nurturing women's enterprise. This can be done by enhancing access to
finance for women entrepreneurs, by developing favourable policies, by
capacity building and by bridging the trust gap between women
entrepreneurs and finance providers.


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Husnain Rasheed